And just like that the great one has returned! I swear every time Jay returns with a project it’s like when Jordan came back and laced em up again. No matter how the end product may turn out, no matter if his skills have diminished, that’s still that guy and I can’t do anything but sit back and watch in awe. At this point Jay-Z is bigger than the game and he’s without a doubt the most successful rapper to ever do it. So every time he does come back it’s just victory laps at this point. But the thing that makes him so special is that he keeps evolving and he always comes with new gems to drop on the people. I fucking love mature Jay-Z and I couldn’t wait to hear what new ish he had to talk on 4:44.
It’s been four years since he released probably one of the more divisive albums in his extensive catalog, MCHG. I personally loved the album but a major point of contention with many of his die-hard stans was with it’s production. It saw Jay rhyming over all kinds of modern beats, including trap variations, and it rubbed them the wrong way. I don’t know if he was conscious of that when he was making 4:44, but it took a decidedly sharp turn in the other direction. Instead of working with a large cast of top producers, the album’s entirely handle by the always impeccable No I.D., so things were definitely more grown this go around. Honestly, this shit was so hip-hop it was refreshing, especially in a time when the sound has become so much less genre distinctive. I’ve always loved hearing Jay-Z on soul samples and No blessed him with some straight fire ones like “Marcy Me”, “4:44”, and “Family Feud.” They’re not quite on Kanye Blueprint level but god damn they’re close. This is Jay’s most cohesive sounding album since American Gangster, which also happened to feature No I.D. production, and No truly blessed him with this year’s purest hip-hop fire this side of Kendrick Lamar.
“Sometimes you need your ego, gotta remind these fools
Who they effin’ with, and we got Effen too
Before we had A&R’s, we had AR’s too
We the only ones really movin’ like y’all say y’all do
We still movin’ like y’all niggas say y’all did
Emory passed you niggas and he did a bid
Ty Ty jumped over niggas and he’s like 5’6″
Got the heart of a giant, don’t you ever forget
Don’t you never forget, Jigga got this shit poppin’
I pulled out the pot when we was outta options”
At this point in his career it’s pretty much pointless to talk about his rapping ability, he is the bar you measure other rappers against, his flow, his delivery, they’re all about as flawless as you can get. What you can criticize him on is his subject matter, but you won’t hear too much talk about high art, his businesses, or accolades. No, he’s about as serious as I’ve ever heard him and after four years away he had a lot to get off his chest. He’s introspective and retrospective and touches on anything and everything, including his situations with Beyonce and Kanye. And he has entire songs aimed at this new generation of rappers, whether that’s words of wisdom or criticism. Jay-Z is our Rolling Stones; he’s the first major rapper we’ve really gotten to watch grow old in front of our eyes. He’s done it all and seen it all, and on 4:44 he sounds like it; but he doesn’t sound tired, he sounds like he’s got another 30+ ahead of him and I’m there for all of it.
Have you heard 4:44 yet? What’d you think about it? Do you like this mature Jay? Are you happy No I.D. handled the whole album? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to leave your own ratings and reactions for the album.
4:44 is Jay-Z's shortest, sharpest, and most concise album yet. He has a lot to get off his chest and he doesn't hold anything back, whether that relates to Beyonce, Kanye, or this new generation of rappers. This is the most hip-hop shit to drop all year with the exception of maybe Kendrick.